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AA, Steps and Program 

What They Are and What They Are Not 

AA (the affectionate nickname for the 
fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous) is 
something different. If you think you know what it 
is, it will disappoint you and you will go away 
looking for what you expected to fi nd. You will 
miss what it is and, if you are an alcoholic of our 
type and moving along that doomed path, what it 
is may save your life. 

People come to AA and try to tell themselves 
they already know what it is. When AA turns out 
to be something other than what they expected 
before they arrived, they miss the message and the 
hope, and go away disappointed. 

They think A A is a church. It isn't. AA is a lousy 
church. We say that you have to have a power 
greater than yourself, which most of us call God, 
but we do not tell you what to believe. If you want 
church, go to church. Th at's where they do 
"church" right. 

They think AA is therapy. AA is lousy therapy. 
If you want therapy, go to therapy. Th at's where 
they do therapy. Many of us have used therapy as 
part of their program, but AA is not therapy. 

They think AA is social services. Some AAs 
have been known to share cigarettes, rides, or 
allow a newcomer to sleep on the couch, but AA is 
lousy social services. Go to social services for that 
- they do it better. 

The Preamble 

"Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men 
and women who share their experience, strength 
and hope with each other that they may solve their 
common problem and help others to recover from 

"The only requirement for membership is a 
desire to stop drinking. Th ere are no dues or fees 
for AA membership; we are self-supporting 
through our own contributions. AA is not allied 
with any sect, denomination, politics, organization 
or institution; does not wish to engage in any 
controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any 
causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and 
help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety." 

The Big Book 

The Big Book is the book "Alcoholics 
Anonymous," fi rst published in 1939, written 
primarily by Bill Wilson and edited through 
discussion between the two AA groups 
(approximately 100 alcoholics) with additional 
input from family and various professionals. The 
purpose of the book was to carry the system of 12- 
Steps for Recovery for the hopeless condition of 
alcoholism. It marked the fi rst time a system was 
in place that could be worked if the instructions 
were followed. "Do the Work and you get the 



The Twelve Steps 

The Twelve Steps are a set of principles, 
spiritual in nature ... Although based on the work 
outlined by the Oxford Group, a previous 
fellowship, the Steps were actually written down 
for the first time in 1938 during the writing of the 
Big Book. 

The Program 

The Program is the system of recovery. Like all 
programs it is "a set of instructions to be followed 
in order." This means that jumping out of 
sequence does not work the Program. The 
Program is referred to a couple of times in the Big 
Book as "a design for living" that really works. It is 
based on the Twelve Steps, to be used as Tools in 
our daily life 

The Fellowship 

The Fellowship is the collection of individuals, 
groups, and service structure that allow the 
regular meetings to exist and allows newcomers to 
find those meetings. Th e Fellowship is where we 
find the experience, strength, and hope of our 
members, whether in a discussion meeting, from 
the podium at a speakers meeting, or across two 
cups of coffee in a late-night diner. 

The Literature 

The Literature refers to those pieces of 
"conference approved" books, pamphlets, and 
multi-media presentations that have gone through 
the process of review and revision by the 
fellowship through the World Service 
Organization. The purpose of "conference 
approved" literature is to ensure that the content is 
a result of our shared experience in Recovery - 
not just an opinion from one person. 

Conference approved literature includes: 

• Alcoholics Anonymous - The Big Book 

• Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions - The 


• Dr. Bob and the Good Old Timers - AA 

History, the Akron viewpoint from Dr. Bob 

• Pass It On - AA History, the New York 

viewpoint from Bill W. 

• AA Comes of Age - AA organizational 

history starting with the 1955 World Service 

• Living Sober - Daily Guide for living the AA 


• Came to Believe - Exploration of 2nd and 

3rd Step topics. 

• Language of the Heart - Bill Wilson s 

articles from the Grapevine 

• Experience, Strength & Hope - a collection 

of all of the individual stories of recovery 
from all four editions of the Big Book 

• Daily Reflections - A book of reflections by 

AA members for AA members 

• And other books from WSO, plus several 

dozen pamphlets addressing individual 
topics of interest to those in Recovery. 

The Twelve Traditions 

The Twelve Traditions are a series of suggested 
guidelines to ensure the survival of AA and the 
independence of the individual and groups that 
compose AA. Th ey are based on our fi rst few 
decades of trial and error and do not hold the 
power of law over members or groups. Th ey serve 
as guides based on our previous experience, 
strength, and hope as a Fellowship.